How to Deal With CPA Exam Stress

By Brandon Vagner, CPA, Ph.D. & Former KPMG Manager

1) Block off study time and don’t miss (for anything)

Whether it is a giant calendar for your office or an electronic calendar, get one and map out every week of CPA exam prep.  Then, map out every day, down to the hour.  Having a blueprint all nicely laid out will reduce your stress levels beyond belief.  Not to mention, you will feel great when you can see all the progress you are making each day.

RELATED: Best CPA Review Courses

2) Utilize vacation time and/or semester breaks to your advantage

Alright, this is where people really jack up their chances of passing and create way more stress than they need.  Instead of trying to study during busy times when you are either working or attending college courses, alleviate as much pain as you can by taking advantage of large blocks of time (e.g. vacation or winter break) available to you where you have little to no responsibilities.

Being able to disconnect yourself from responsibility is critical.  I always recommend to people who are working full time to use every last day of their vacation time for CPA exam studying.  Maybe leave one or two for potential sick days, but you get the point.  No Cancun for you this year.  Just wait until next year when you have the CPA exam behind you.  At KPMG we had 5 weeks of vacation starting day 1 as a first year.  That is a massive amount of time if used wisely.  If it were me, I would try to strategically schedule vacation around holiday paid days off.  That just stretches things out even further.

3) Schedule a weekly social activity escape

EVERYBODY needs a release from studying and that much needed social interaction.  Make sure you are scheduling some sort of fun each week with your friends.  This is a must!

Pro Tip – Don’t over do the fun!  It is extremely easy to join a volleyball team, softball team, trivia team, and more.  Too many of those things will drastically cut into your study time and cause you to stress out even more because you won’t be making progress.  Just say no when you are trying to get the CPA exam knocked out.

4) Make sure you are following a healthy diet and working out

I used to have one of the worst diets you could image.  I didn’t watch anything I ate, because I was lucky enough to be relatively thin for most of my early life thanks to genes.  Along with the awful diet though, I didn’t workout much either.  I was the worst.

Since then, I have become a HUGE health nut.  There are so many things you can do from a diet and workout perspective that can help your stress levels and focus.  For example, did you know blueberries are amazing for reducing stress?  I’ll be giving away tips on how you can improve your diet and incorporate working out into your days.  If you want to receive those tips and much more, make sure to join the free email newsletter.

5) Use a high quality CPA review course that fits your learning needs

Selecting a CPA exam prep course just because your friends are using it or because your firm recommends it as their number one choice is the worst thing you can do.  If you want to reduce your stress, then make 100% sure that you find a CPA review course that meets your needs.  For example, what type of instructor personality do you like?  Professor type or highly energetic and entertaining?  Do not assume every course out there is the same, because they are drastically different when it comes to content delivery.

Pro Tip – Stay off the negative environment CPA forums!

If you want to learn more, you should check out the mastermind group hosted by me.  Not only will it help you with questions like these, knowing you have a trusted community behind you can make a HUGE difference in lowering your stress levels and ultimately achieving CPA exam success.

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